PARK CITY – About 18 months from now most Americans will likely be able to recognize Andrea Riseborough from countless other starlets gracing the big screen. At the moment though, the 30-year-old British actress has only appeared in indie films such as “Brighton Rock,” “Made in Dagenham” and “Never Let Me Go” and she’s hardly a household name even in her native England. However, as you’re likely reading this, Riseborough is preparing for her biggest role to date in Joseph Kosinski’s currently untitled Sci-Fi epic formerly known as “Oblivion.” It’s a summer 2013 tentpole starring Tom Cruise and getting a lot of attention as Kosinski’s follow up to “Tron: Legacy.” Happily, for those looking to discover new talent, Riseborough has a number of films you can catch before then including Madonna’s “W.E” which is finally hitting theaters this weekend after debuting at the Venice Film Festival way back in September.
In “W.E,” Riseborough faced the challenge of playing the legendary Wallis Simpson, the woman whom King Edward VII loved so much he abdicated his throne for (at least that’s how we’ve always seen it on this side of the pond). Oscar nomination for costumer designer Arianne Phillips aside, Riseborough is hands down the most impressive aspect of the “flashback” drama and her performance is likely the reason she’s finally getting noticed by Hollywood. When I sat down to talk to her in Park City, Utah last week during the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, it was initially to discuss her role in James Marsh’s new dramatic thriller “Shadow Dancer.”
Set against the backdrop of the IRA’s last days in 1993, Riseborough plays a mother pressured by her family after the death of her younger brother into becoming a terrorist for the cause. Eventually she becomes an informant for the British government to protect her own child, but her loyalties are severely tested as the story progresses. Unfortunately, most festival goers weren’t big fans of the film. Marsh, best known for his Oscar-winning documentary “Man On A Wire,” directs the movie at a snails pace generating little suspense or drama. Riseborough and the rest of the cast, including Clive Owen, give it their all, but can’t save the film from becoming a tedious bore. Obviously, that’s hardly Riseborough’s opinion as we begin our chat. During our interview she compliments Marsh discussing the “dynamic” way he tells a story and how “empathic” he is with every character in the picture.
Eventually, I was able to segue the conversation to the more time sensitive “W.E.” Riseborough has been promoting the film at one festival after another for four months, but this was the first chance I’d gotten to sit down and discuss it with her. She’s been lauded for showing Simpson as a woman who was truly conflicted about Edward’s historic decision and the consequences it had on her own life (somehow Madonna gets now credit for this as the film’s director). I wanted to know how Riseborough found the character and she quickly warned me it wouldn’t be a short answer.
“It’s every piece of archive footage. It’s every still image. It’s anything that has a sound or moves to do with anything written about her or anything she’s written or letters she’s written to other people because people often don’t divulge that information to a loved one. And that’s at the beginning,” Riseborough says laughing. “And it’s from that point that you work with all that. Things start to manifest, a spirit is captured, reasons of motivation for each single part of a life you’re dealing with. I mean, you’re dealing with a long life. 26 to 70 are the years that we are capturing in the film, but everything leaving up to 26 — I mean, she just didn’t appear out of thin air in Shanghai. By the time you get to the end of that process you’ve created a hybrid of the character that you think serves the film because, truly, when you are making a movie and you are playing a historical figure you have to go back to the script for what you are trying to achieve. Anything that serves that is fantastic and anything that doesn’t has to be left by the wayside as chaff in this particular case. So, up to that point when you get on set you just trust that it’s all in your DNA. That’s something Madonna said once and I think it’s just so wonderfully put.”
You can watch our entire interview embedded at the top of this post.
“W.E” is now playing nationwide.
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